The Big Guns winemaker dinner was one of a million moments that
have made up 25 years at Araxi, with many more to come — but this moment
shone particularly bright.
The evening blew apart like a firecracker, awing guests from
Champagne reception to Cognac finish.
The quarter of a century birthday celebration showcased
untouchable wines, some as old as the restaurant itself; a menu playing with
new, but not afraid to draw on past successes; and like the owner, underneath
Araxi’s meticulous shine, excitement bubbled, just waiting for the right moment
to unleash the full weight of the creative team with results that were as
genuine, prized and satisfying as shared laughter among friends.
Big Guns hit its target head-on, wowing the curious and
The Taste of the Sea first course set the foothold for what was
to come with stacked layers of red tuna and yellow tail launching praise and
setting a high bar for the evening. The ocean tide further receded to reveal an
herb-blanketed halibut whose fennel tones were offset wonderfully by a woody,
buttery Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards Chardonnay 2004. I could have floated
around on Araxi’s shore forever. The crisp spot prawn reception appetizer further
added to the west coast escapade that left you swearing you could smell salty
The menu then hit the ground running with ricotta gnocchi
topped with the world’s rarest forest gems, white Alba truffles. The
Tiffany-bracelet equivalent shaved atop gnocchi put a kick-start on the Louis
Jadot Gevrey Chambertin 1999, which was a force to be reckoned with on its own.
Black cherry tones in one corner, ethereal truffle white sauce in the other,
flavours came out fighting — reaching an inevitable impasse. Bread and
even one food critic’s finger left bowls spotless.
While the delicately spongy duck sausage was a wonderful first
timer I’d like to relive, the Fraser Valley duck course was lost in the
trenches to the Big Guns hero of the night, the Chateau Beaucastel Châteauneuf
du Pape 1981. With 25 years behind its layers and layers of flavour, you could
see the wine’s age, literally. So old, the resin was visible at the bottom of
the glass and the once blood-red elixir was now a stunning mahogany. This wine
was like a greying Whistler man. Wise with age, but with plenty of
underestimated animalistic power that could kick any youth in the mountain bike
park, or in this case, the wine glass.
Although not backing such a history, the Beringer bastilion
packed deadly and accurate firepower with the Bancroft Ranch Vineyard Merlot 91
and Chabot Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 90 — the latter’s elegant oak
undertones bringing fullness to the delicate confit lamb shoulder.
Then the bomb dropped. The Kobe beef dish was slow cooked to
unrecognizable proportions. The stringy blissful meat, with no knife required,
was like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. And in keeping with the slow food
methodology, a carrot puree pulled from the grounds of Pemberton’s North Arm
Farm accompanied the dish.
At this point, I wanted to wave a white flag of truce and curl
up in my luxuriously spoiled senses completely and deliciously overwhelmed, but
my favourite things appeared in one course right in front me: bittersweet
chocolate and griottine cherries with a collector’s wine full of black fruit
flavours to match — Lokoya Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2003.
I missed the last dessert course and contented myself with only
a hurried taste of the Hennessy XO Cognac — vicious and smooth, a deadly
combination. I blame Cornucopia organizers for my hurried state with Masquerave
moved to the winemaker dinners’ night. Why not move the winemaker dinners to
the Thursday night, so there is a signature event for every night?
Araxi’s elegance, sincerity and only the best of the best
showcased itself all evening, but all three components condensed itself into
one defining moment, even before the dinner began.
In one moment, I sipped 10-year-old Champagne with artichoke
cappuccino and Alaskan king crab cakes to keep me company at the reception. In
the next moment, one of the servers saw my single state and went out of her way
to introduce me to new friends and conversation.
It’s small moments like these that stand out among millions. Cincin to Jack Evrensel, James Walt and staff to the many more to come.